x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Inspirational talent

As the London Paralympics gets underway today, the footballing skills of a young boy from Brazil is a reminder of what's possible with determination.

There is no other way to describe the story of Gabriel Muniz than inspirational. The 11-year-old Brazilian boy was born without feet, but that hasn't stopped him from playing football. As the British media reported this week, Gabriel regularly kicks a ball around with his classmates in Campos dos Goytacazes, 275 kilometres north-east of Rio de Janeiro.

Now, officials from Spanish club FC Barcelona have invited him to visit their training academy, where he will meet his football idol Lionel Messi, who also captains the Argentine national team.

Gabriel's mother, Sandra, told an interviewer: "He started walking before he was one. We would go after him, expecting him to keep falling, but he never fell." His friend, Lucas Santos, added: "He is skilful, he goes after it [the ball], he is fearless and he knows how to organise plays. He also makes good passes."

Gabriel's story is especially significant today at the beginning of the London Paralympics. These games are all about celebrating true heroes who have overcome incredible odds to excel in their chosen sports.

Football is not yet played in Gabriel's disability category, but we join him in hoping that there is a role for him in future games. Or wherever his talent takes him.